The current state of publishing has me thinking about the future.
It’s hard not to these days. Everywhere you look there’s another announcement of the electronic squashing print. I imagine this big trash-can-head robot stomping books into the mud and I have to set down my quill and cry a little into my ink-stained tea mug.
But soon I regather my strength and then I start thinking of all the cool things to come. Futurists and other people who are paid to think about such things say that in 2020 you will be able to talk to anyone with auto-translator apps in your primary devices. But that’s just the start. Computers will be inside things and inside us and not on the desk. We’ll be able to enter full-immersion VR with images downloaded directly to our retinas, augmenting and even replacing reality in various ways. We’ll be interacting with virtual personalities and relying on them for several things—news and information, entertainment and companionship.
And according to one cyborg brainiac currently known as Ray Kurzweil, by 2029, the fastest computers ever heard of today will be affordable for virtually everyone on the planet. Many of us will be bio-engineered in several senses, both through implants and through computer-enhanced mental and physical capabilities in the computers embedded into our everyday objects. Cellular robots will be programable to repair anything at the molecular level, reversing aging, global problems, economic vulnerabilities, climate disruptions, and every manner of decline and decay. These robots will improve our brains and body functions and also make it possible to experience others’ emotional states and their attendant physical experiences. Organs will be created and recreated from tissue within and outside the body. Human life expectancy will increase and several common diseases will disappear. New ones, especially psychological disorders will continue to proliferate. (Much of this was mentioned by Ray here, toward the end of his talk:
And all of this makes me struggle to believe there will be much more beauty and sane people around to appreciate it in the coming decades. Sure, there will be advances and technologies never before seen and they will be widely appreciated and then mostly taken for granted as usual. But will much of the real beauty beneath, behind, and all around it be missed and inadvertently destroyed, as much or more than is happening today?
When I think about my kids growing up in this ever-more identity-variable landscape, I easily become overwhelmed. It’s bad enough thinking how Facebook and Twitter are making our boundaries more permeable and unreliable, but it’s a plink of acid rain to the sheer suffocating volume of inescapable existential asteroids hurtling toward us just beyond our perception.
(Imagine people wanting to move to the space station on Mars just to get away from the disturbing technological society we’ve created on Earth. It isn’t so far fetched to consider–the sci-fi writers are all wondering why I’d even bring it up.)
Normally all the unknown out there would be enough to make me want to move into a well-ventilated cave and take up the piccolo, but thanks to the current publishing environment, I’m about all out of freak-out these days.
Where will beauty be if we can’t even find it in our current world? More than ever, we need a different kind of futurist who sees where we’re heading and is holding us to the solid source of truth, love, and beauty. So often writers get frustrated that they aren’t getting the attention they think they deserve, but the hard truth is that they haven’t really found what deserves our attention. It’s easy to look around and excuse ourselves from responsibility—plenty of garbage gets published, why not this? We can dodge and remain stubbornly focused on what we want to say.
But what if there’s something higher, something more universal you haven’t considered? Even in your own small story the particulars point to a bigger, broader picture. And that picture has implications for all of us. What meaning are you making of your experience for others to glean? What fuller awareness are you making possible through sharing your discoveries?
And what transcendent beauty are you illuminating by the light of your simple words?